How to Freeze a Fall

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Silky when flowing and majestic when frozen, waterfalls are always a sight to behold because they circulate the entire energy cycle from air to earth, making us feel as if we are in a complete circle of serenity.

How does a waterfall freeze?

When temperature of the flowing water drops to below freezing, the water molecules slow down and stick together to form solid particles which turn into ice. These disc particles are around 1 millimetre and clump when contacting one another, and together start the freezing process of a waterfall. If the temperature remains cold long enough, these frazil ice particles [defined as “a collection of loose, randomly oriented, plate or discoid ice crystals formed in supercooled turbulent water”] will continue to grow, creating long sparkling columns.

Not all waterfalls will freeze in prolonged subzero weather. The Niagara Falls have never frozen and probably won’t ever due to the sheer volume of water pouring down. They fall at an average rate of 15,240 cubic metres of water per second. They might look frozen on a thin surface with long icicles around the mouth of the falls, but water is still flowing strongly underneath.

For now, if you want to freeze a fall, take a snapshot and freeze it in your memory, like photographer Cynthia Hoa did on her recent trip to Tiffany Falls in Hamilton, Ontario.

Watch her video of the frozen waterfalls.